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    Default Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    I'm posting it here instead of Worldbuilding because I want to focus on the real world practicality of this, not the creative side of this.

    Let's imagine a theoretical kingdom with medieval technology and a lot of resources, but not unlimited ones. They have no access to magic, they only have regular humans. They have enemies that have flying armies and they have time to prepare defenses against them. Could they build a building in the size of a city in which everyone would dwell?

    If not, could people make a city like that with modern technology?
    Last edited by akma; 2019-11-21 at 02:35 AM.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Not even with modern technology. If you could make an entirely self-sufficient building, we'd be a good way towards establishing one as a lunar outpost. Without magic, you're going to need supplies from somewhere and those will be your weak point.

    Providing living spaces for people if you have access to supplies otherwise is quite doable with modern tech and not too silly sounding for fantasy people. Dwarves being the archetypal example where they just live underground. There are drawbacks to going too long without seeing the sun, but there are ways around that in game; either say that the people have adapted, say that they make sure to get outside during normal times and only hole up when it's dangerous, or just decide that the drawbacks are minor enough and not sweat them. Using the real world for inspiration again, scientists in remote arctic research facilities can manage without too much hassle.

    All that said, though, the supply line issue will always be a problem in warfare. If the flyers use their air superiority, they should be quite able to block off access points to the outside world. You then have a siege situation. The best defenses won't help you if food is running out and you can't get any more.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Yeah, can't see any practical way to make a building like that self-sufficient, which it would need to be or else all the flying enemy has to do is target the supply lines--e.g. the food growing areas, the water supply, that sort of thing. There's no practical reason why you couldn't make a single building large enough to hold the population of a city, though--Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong was pretty much that, 30,000 people occupying an area where all the apartments merged into one another and the alleyways between them were often covered over by other buildings.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Yeah, can't see any practical way to make a building like that self-sufficient, which it would need to be or else all the flying enemy has to do is target the supply lines--e.g. the food growing areas, the water supply, that sort of thing. There's no practical reason why you couldn't make a single building large enough to hold the population of a city, though--Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong was pretty much that, 30,000 people occupying an area where all the apartments merged into one another and the alleyways between them were often covered over by other buildings.
    Not with medieaval technology. Kowloon was built with the help of modens materials allowing much more easily to build to height. And using less volume of the city in the loadbearing sections. A medieaval city would have to sprawl many times more because you can't build as high and when you do mor eeffort will be spent on shoring it up. It'd likely be effectively indefensible anyway.

    Also the whole thing would burn down often.


    The nail in the coffin would be supplies as noted. Every fortress and city ever created ultimately had this problem. And I recall from a thread/discussion on aerial foes it's going to depend a lot of the attributes of the flying armies, but largely the answer is "you are screwed".



    Things like the Empire State Building or Burj Kalifa and such are effectively one building cities (IIRC Empire State was sort fo designed to be), but even with a modern building nowhere near self-sufficient, and usually worse off than an imaginary medieaval equivalent. Although it's not impossible that modern super highrises aren't because they were not expected to be. There's actually a lot you can do growing in artifical light I was told once. Basically a greenhouse as an opaque box, not the traditinal glass ones.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    With medieval technology you can only really build something a couple hundred feet high - even the biggest Roman era concrete structures only reached that height. So pretty much no on that front.

    However, you can build a medieval style city that has fairly stout external surfaces, something like Carcassone, and then add bird-control measures onto everything to reduce the ability of fliers to attack it. Bird spikes and anti-bird netting can be scaled up to inhibit larger fliers and are well within the reach of medieval technology. It you turn you city into the municipal equivalent of a rusty porcupine, flying attackers will lose any real ability to maneuver in close quarters within it and you can use archery weapons to set up a kill box above it.

    Now, that's not going to do any good against aerial attacks involving mystical elements like dragons, and it will struggle against the old-fashioned method of dropping rocks (though if we're being realistic with physics the average flying unit probably can't drop a rock with much more force than a decent trebuchet anyway), but it at least gets you somewhere.

    However, as others have mentioned, this still leaves you besieged. If you can't defeat the enemy in the field, then even if your fortress is impenetrable it then becomes a matter of who starves first. Now, a proper strategy for storage combined with a little bit of scorched earth activity to prevent the attackers from living off your land might allow the defenders to win this one, especially if flying beasts have the kind of intense metabolic requirements you'd expect them to have.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    What you can do is put a lot more underground. There are examples of ancient cities cut into rock faces and some amazing networks of tunnels easily googles. Now extrapolate this - it doesn't do much for food production, but with underground water sources and decent natural cave system you can probably move all the living and manufacturing space underground (just need to construct ventilation shafts). Waste disposal can be into the underground rivers (downstream of where they are used for anything else). Fuel can be from coal mining, and mining can also supply some other minerals (though they need to be from a different area to the coal - but areas either side of a city might work with a geological shift between them). Water-power could reduce the fuel need as well.

    A little food (fish) can come from the underground rivers, otherwise animals are a mixed bunch - some will survive underground with fodder brought in, others will need to wander outside and may have to be dispensed with.

    This just leaves vegetable materials - food and fabrics (wood is useful but not necessary) nearly all of which need to come from the surface, and not in medieval greenhouses.

    So, is the society one likely to be sieged, or just raided? If just raided they can grow crops and graze herds outside with watchers posted to warn them when to head for cover. They may also be able to trade for what they don't produce with other civilizations.

    If sieges are more likely they can probably have stores to survive for some time, but will have real problems in the long term. That said, it would be hard to maintain a siege from the air - if the besiegers land to camp then tunnellers could break out sally parties directly into the siege camp's more vulnerable locations and wreak havoc!
    Last edited by Khedrac; 2019-11-13 at 04:51 AM.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    A network of underground tunnels also makes it more difficult to fully contain the city dwellers, since the siege force needs to spread out in a larger area and more often then not does not know the location of the exits (if the builders did their job right that is). This does require the besieged party to actively harass the attackers in order to use this advantage, but this is exactly how things went down during sieges.

    If there are other allied cities nearby, then long-range communication is the key to safety. A watchtower with some means of igniting a solid fire goes a long way in terms of calling for help or at least spreading the warning.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    . Although it's not impossible that modern super highrises aren't because they were not expected to be. There's actually a lot you can do growing in artifical light I was told once. Basically a greenhouse as an opaque box, not the traditinal glass ones.
    It's absolutely possible to grow plants inside. I do it daily as part of my job. The down side is that you need huge amounts of power to do it at any kind of scale. More than you get from some solar cells. So your self-sufficient building will either have a geothermal plant or a nuclear reactor.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Frankly, I don't see why a building would be a worthwhile defense against fliers, especially in medieval era and with that kind of technological advancement.

    Arrows, in mass, are a devastating weapon to face on foot when you can stop and cover yourself in a shield. Flying would make that an absolute nightmare with anything more then 5 units moving into position.

    Ever drive through a cloud of mayflies? Imagine each of those mayflies were a wooden shaft with enough force to penetrate you. And they aren't just wondering aimlessly along a road side, they are coming for you. and if you get hit by them, you then start falling several hundred feet.

    I just don't think a single large building is worth the effort for a problem that can be solved by a bunch of men with bows.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Son of A Lich! View Post
    Frankly, I don't see why a building would be a worthwhile defense against fliers, especially in medieval era and with that kind of technological advancement.

    Arrows, in mass, are a devastating weapon to face on foot when you can stop and cover yourself in a shield. Flying would make that an absolute nightmare with anything more then 5 units moving into position.

    Ever drive through a cloud of mayflies? Imagine each of those mayflies were a wooden shaft with enough force to penetrate you. And they aren't just wondering aimlessly along a road side, they are coming for you. and if you get hit by them, you then start falling several hundred feet.

    I just don't think a single large building is worth the effort for a problem that can be solved by a bunch of men with bows.
    The problem lies in range. Shooting upward means you lose the kinetic energy pretty fast. In principle you can shoot upward up to half your horizontal range, but it means that the arrow would reach that height with no penetrative power. Thus, effective range upward would be much lower. This gives the fliers a serious advantage, since gravity is a cruel mistress for everyone and will amplify the power of projectiles used by the fliers. They do not have to close in - just shooting or throwing things down will be more then enough.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    One thing to note here is that, for a medieval castle or city wall with hoardings in place, the defenders are essentially inside total cover at all times, including from above. Flying attackers shooting arrows from above aren't going to do much more than attackers shooting from the ground, which is to say very little.

    Flying attackers could potentially drop rocks or other heavy projectiles from high above with the intent to smash hoardings, internal structures, and other defenses, but this is already possible with various catapults, trebuchets, and other rock-throwing devices and the ability of most flying creatures to lift heavy stones is rather limited.

    The greatest advantage fliers provide is that they can land inside a castle, or more likely a walled town, and force the defenders on the walls to face attacks from both directions, which is demoralizing and also makes it much easier to force a gate and pour within. This is roughly the same idea a mining a tunnel under the walls to insert an attacking force, or leading a unit in through the sewers. This only works if your fliers are either good fighters on their own or big enough to transport troops though.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The greatest advantage fliers provide is that they can land inside a castle, or more likely a walled town, and force the defenders on the walls to face attacks from both directions, which is demoralizing and also makes it much easier to force a gate and pour within. This is roughly the same idea a mining a tunnel under the walls to insert an attacking force, or leading a unit in through the sewers. This only works if your fliers are either good fighters on their own or big enough to transport troops though.
    This is presumably why the "have one giant building" idea came up, because if it's just one building (presumably covered entirely by a roof) there's nowhere for the flyers to land? Although, thinking about it, you would still need to defend the roof area in such a thing, because if the flyers *can* land there and there's no-one to stop them, they have all the time in the world to figure out a way inside.
    Last edited by factotum; 2019-11-14 at 03:04 AM.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Why not just string up nets over any exposed spaces? They give cover against people landing and give you some chance of shooting arrows through. (No idea if you can actually shoot through a wide net.)
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    This is presumably why the "have one giant building" idea came up, because if it's just one building (presumably covered entirely by a roof) there's nowhere for the flyers to land? Although, thinking about it, you would still need to defend the roof area in such a thing, because if the flyers *can* land there and there's no-one to stop them, they have all the time in the world to figure out a way inside.
    Roof can be spiked, so noone will be able to land. You can also set up murder holes in the roof to stab anyone trying to land there.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Murderholes would have the disadvantage of letting rain in. Just make the roofs too steep to easily land on? Spiked roofs would probably retain too much snow, so you'd have a danger of collapse.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2019-11-14 at 05:44 AM.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Murderholes would have the disadvantage of letting rain in. Just make the roofs too steep to easily land on? Spiked roofs would probably retain too much snow, so you'd have a danger of collapse.
    Well, you can never have an ideally flat roof anyway at least without proper drainage. If snow is an issue, then you will face a severe engineering problem, since the roof would have to be pretty steep and with a city-sized building it would require the whole construction to be higher then it was possible using medieval technology. Alternatively, you would have to have a whole network of wells, to which the snow from the roof can slide to and can be extracted by the people living inside.

    Also: very steep conical roof are just large spikes.

    As for murderholes letting in water: it can be a feature and not a bug. Rainwater can be a valuable resource even if you have a river to get water from. At any rate, proper drainege should be simple enough and the added security will be more then welcome.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    ... and with a city-sized building it would require the whole construction to be higher then it was possible using medieval technology. Alternatively, you would have to have a whole network of wells, to which the snow from the roof can slide to and can be extracted by the people living inside.
    Particularly in days before artificial lighting and HVAC systems, very large buildings tend to have lots of courtyards, or at least ventilation shafts. Take a look at the Pentagon (the main office building for the US Department of Defense), for example. I admit this, and the necessary window space, makes defense more difficult, but you can probably keep flying monkeys out if you have fine enough grills over all the windows, and keep any doors to the courtyards locked.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSh View Post
    Particularly in days before artificial lighting and HVAC systems, very large buildings tend to have lots of courtyards, or at least ventilation shafts. Take a look at the Pentagon (the main office building for the US Department of Defense), for example.
    Surely that's a pretty bad example, considering it was built in the early 1940s and they definitely had artificial light then?

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Surely that's a pretty bad example, considering it was built in the early 1940s and they definitely had artificial light then?
    You mean my father was exaggerating about how primitive things were when he was a boy? All right, then, look at Versailles, or El Escorial. Long corridors, but limits on how far any rooms are from the windows.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSh View Post
    Particularly in days before artificial lighting and HVAC systems, very large buildings tend to have lots of courtyards, or at least ventilation shafts. Take a look at the Pentagon (the main office building for the US Department of Defense), for example. I admit this, and the necessary window space, makes defense more difficult, but you can probably keep flying monkeys out if you have fine enough grills over all the windows, and keep any doors to the courtyards locked.
    Courtyards are not much of a defence problem, since they are natural killzones anyway.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Imagining for a moment a giant building was a practical defense... Would a potential counter be to build a second building around the city? Matryoshka civilizations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    As for murderholes letting in water: it can be a feature and not a bug. Rainwater can be a valuable resource even if you have a river to get water from. At any rate, proper drainege should be simple enough and the added security will be more then welcome.
    I wouldn't put too much value in rainwater when your flying opponents have a more direct access to your drainage system than you do. Even without flight, you're asking for debris or rotting carcasses to be trebucheted/catapulted/whichever-is-the-right-word directly into a water source. Castles have *frantic Google sounds* machicolations- holes in the overhanging part of towers and walls where things were shot/thrown/poured over incoming attackers- as a defensive measure. When you put the hole above you, you're standing on the wrong end.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by OracleofWuffing View Post
    I wouldn't put too much value in rainwater when your flying opponents have a more direct access to your drainage system than you do. Even without flight, you're asking for debris or rotting carcasses to be trebucheted/catapulted/whichever-is-the-right-word directly into a water source. Castles have *frantic Google sounds* machicolations- holes in the overhanging part of towers and walls where things were shot/thrown/poured over incoming attackers- as a defensive measure. When you put the hole above you, you're standing on the wrong end.
    That might be. After all, catapulting carcasses to besieged cities was a well known tactic in the real world. Still, drainage could be easily put in place. The point of machicolations was to remove a blind spot in castle defences. Without them anyone getting close enough to the wall was pretty safe, which was bad news for the defenders. Even thick stone walls can be brought down given enough time. If you are dealing with flying opponents, relying just on a strudy roof will not be nearly enough to ensure safety. You need a way to actively deter anyone getting close to the roof. Yes, gravity will be against you, but you cannot do much about that anyway.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSh View Post
    You mean my father was exaggerating about how primitive things were when he was a boy? All right, then, look at Versailles, or El Escorial. Long corridors, but limits on how far any rooms are from the windows.
    To expand on this, if you actually go and visit historical castles - and there are plenty of places you can do this - the internal defensive spaces, meaning all the corridors in the walls and the various tower rooms, are actually quite dark even on bright days because all of the light is coming in through miserly arrow slits.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar
    Courtyards are not much of a defence problem, since they are natural killzones anyway.
    The issue is that if someone lands in your courtyard, they split your forces and you can no longer concentrate your defense against attackers coming from one direction. Every man fighting on the courtyard steps is one not fighting on the walls. Likewise, unlike an outer wall, a courtyard has to have at least some level of accessibility for the defenders, which means providing a natural route to allow attackers from the inside to enter into direct contact with the foe.

    Many castles were designed with severe restrictions on entry, mostly through use of terrain. The Chateau de Queribus, gives you some idea of how difficult some castles were to attack from the ground and how easily defenders could concentrate all their efforts on a single point. However, an airborne army could land all over the castle, robbing the defenders of this advantage and forcing them into open melee.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The issue is that if someone lands in your courtyard, they split your forces and you can no longer concentrate your defense against attackers coming from one direction. Every man fighting on the courtyard steps is one not fighting on the walls. Likewise, unlike an outer wall, a courtyard has to have at least some level of accessibility for the defenders, which means providing a natural route to allow attackers from the inside to enter into direct contact with the foe.

    Many castles were designed with severe restrictions on entry, mostly through use of terrain. The Chateau de Queribus, gives you some idea of how difficult some castles were to attack from the ground and how easily defenders could concentrate all their efforts on a single point. However, an airborne army could land all over the castle, robbing the defenders of this advantage and forcing them into open melee.
    Obviously in light of airborne attackers castle design needs no be changed accordingly. You cannot not have some ventilation shafts and wells for falling snow. Some incoming light might be nice, but this would not be as easy to arrange without sacrificing security. I might have been wrong in using the word courtyard though, since big open spaces inside is something you really want to avoid. Division of defending force in unavoidable against flying opponents, but you can still arrange significant force multipliers that will allow small number of defenders to hold back a rather big attacking party. First of all, open spaces need to be much more narrow then in historical castles - something the width of typical medieval city streets might be ideal here, since in of itself it will heavily restrict movement for anyone trying to fly down if not entirely prohibit such entrance. Then you can add spikes, grating, nets, wire traps, murdeholes and so on. This is also exactly where machicolations would work perfectly. Relative lack of light also works to your advantage here and manuevering around traps, when you are flying is going to by much more difficult then on foot. The attackers might try to climb down using ropes instead, but this has also an obvious solution:
    - passive: properly sharp roof edge
    - active: people cutting the ropes just as they typically pushed ladders away from the walls
    - downright trolling: no entrance at the ground level. If city dwellers need to step into the ventilation shaft, they can easily use ladders. Good luck trying to force a door open above ground and without any room to gain speed.

    edit: also an interesting point here are the fortresses of XIX century like this one. They might have been shapen by cannons and rifles so to speak, but take a note of how they shape the route for attacking force and arrange for ample crossfire opportunities. Given more tight spaces, this is exactly the kind of advantage you can use in designing courtyards/ventilation shafts.
    Last edited by Radar; 2019-11-16 at 06:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by OracleofWuffing View Post
    Imagining for a moment a giant building was a practical defense... Would a potential counter be to build a second building around the city? Matryoshka civilizations.
    The principle has been used for thousands of years - the most notable one I can think of is Caesar and the Siege of Alesia, where he was besieging a Gaulish settlement. To stop nightly raids and other shenanigans by the defenders, the Romans built circumvallations (field works and other fortifications) to ensure that the Gauls were boxed in.

    A Gaulish relief force showed up and the Romans built contravallations (walls and fieldworks) to keep those Gauls out, so you had a siege-within-a-siege situation.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    The principle has been used for thousands of years - the most notable one I can think of is Caesar and the Siege of Alesia, where he was besieging a Gaulish settlement. To stop nightly raids and other shenanigans by the defenders, the Romans built circumvallations (field works and other fortifications) to ensure that the Gauls were boxed in.

    A Gaulish relief force showed up and the Romans built contravallations (walls and fieldworks) to keep those Gauls out, so you had a siege-within-a-siege situation.
    Also the way castles and more modern fortresses were build, they had a few layers of defences ready, so if the outer wall has fallen, they moved back to the second one. At the very lest there was a strongly fortified keep or bergfried (had to google that name) as the last stand position. This was additionally important when the defending army was thinned out so much that they could not men the outer wall anyway.

    edit: I only just realised that I did not fully understand the meaning of the idea.
    Last edited by Radar; 2019-11-18 at 12:50 PM.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by akma View Post
    I'm posting it here instead of Worldbuilding because I want to focus on the real world practicality of this, not the creative side of this.

    Let's imagine a theoretical kingdom with medieval technology and a lot of resources, but not unlimited ones. They have no excess to magic, they only have regular humans. They have enemies that have flying armies and they have time to prepare defenses against them. Could they build a building in the size of a city in which everyone would dwell?

    If not, could people make a city like that with modern technology?
    One big enclosed manifold would be exceedingly hard even in modern materials. And the "best" versions of a modern full manifold used in modernist design, giant frames covered over with cladding or glass panels...which could theoretical be stretched across enormous space...would have no defensive value.

    Thing is, I think a medieval kingdom could harden a city versus fliers, it just wouldn't look like one big shell. I mean, there's a bunch of variables, but...

    Fantasy fliers potentially represent six things:

    reconaissance
    kinetic bombardment (dropping heavy stuff),
    incendiary bombardment (dropping fire),
    strafing (opportunistically striking targets as though swooping at prey, raptor-like),
    commando-style breaches (inserting a small covert team of combatants with specific objectives)
    beachhead landing (inserting a large force in a short time through coordinated mass deployment)

    ...though it kind of depends on exactly what critter's we're talking about. Magical flying things in warfare could do many different tasks depending on size, strength, and maneuverability in the air and on the ground. If the fliers are Flash Gordon Hawk Men, then it's like you're being assaulted by flying light cavalry or cavalry archers, but they land and function as paratroopers; if it's a dragon, it's like a heavy bomber passed over, then landed and turned into a tank.

    The first thing is that you wouldn't harden the entire city. You'd pick critical locations and fortify them against fliers and infantry, and it would simply be part of siege defense to have a forces throughout the city in those key locations, and a good order of priorities of which positions to fall back to, and devote the most manpower to, as fliers were deployed in different strategic manners. And, in extremis, just accept that certain areas will be destroyed and decide to not devote energy to protecting them.

    For example, fire attack would be the fastest, lowest-risk way to hurt most cities using fliers, and the counter move would be to have critical supplies stored in less-flammable buildings, and to design neighborhoods with fire breaks. Training professional firemen would be part of counter-siege tactics, and dudes are generally cheaper than fireproof buildings. Anticipating fire attack ostly-wood parts of town would just be evacuated (if the rulers were nice enough to care about that kind of thing) and a sufficient number of structures would be pulled down to prevent a blaze from whipping up into a fire storm (think Dresden bombing) that swept across everything.

    Hardening against kinetic bombardment would depend a lot of variables: from what height and how precisely fliers were at dropping missiles, what the mass of those missiles were. The answer would be a combination of putting stuff underground, and adapting the kind of designs forts used against siege cannons for the Y axis rather than the X: lots of odd angles to keep a dropped projectile from hitting clearly, possibly using packed soil and gravel to create impact cushions for falling objects (so a stone structure topped with a kind artificial hill, I guess). For both dropped projectiles and landers, a giant siege equivalent of pigeon spikes wouldn't be bad idea. Or greasing surfaces.

    Proofing against strafing would be stuff like roofs atop battlements, but in if you've a city with lots of narrow streets (rather than built around courtyards) then netting and wires would be a great defensive measure; string them from roof to roof so it creates a canopy over key paths, and ideally would be hard to see and avoid from a descending flier.

    Ultimately, beachhead landings would be the scenario that would most drastically affect design. In premodern warfare well-designed walls had the advantage; fliers circumvent that defense, so city defense would have to both have conventional siege walls, but also an internal defensive system to control for "landings" with a specific mind to not letting the incoming fliers concentrate and form a coherent spearhead unit. This could be achieved a bunch of ways.

    The simplest is just a design assumption that the exterior siege wall should also have forces and defensive features facing inwards...like the circumvallation/countravallation at Alesia. But layers of internal defense would probably be required for a big city. An second concetric wall fortification would be a the "basic" way of adding more defense, but in a truly large city you might see multiple baileys dotted through the interior. In particular, city gates would have as much security and defense facing inward as outward, as well as being closed to sky, as one of the smartest "moves" involving fliers would be to seize a gate and open it for conventional ground forces.

    Interior-facing forces would be trained specifically to attack descending fliers...putting up the ballista-and-bows equivalent of a metal storm to deter landing, but also trying to target critical flier units. For example, a large flier that would act on the ground as a tank or big fliers acting as troop transport, are higher value targets. Making a flier fall instead of land is a way of increasing casualties even if you can't kill them outright, which slows concentration. Not allowing a flier to take off again also limits their ability to re-group diminishing their effectiveness.

    And it's at this point that variables about what the fliers are, and how they fly, and how they fight in the air and/or on the ground begin to matter...because if the defending city/nation is building specifically anticipating a certain kind of aerial warfare, you can get wildly creative with defense layouts. See...the thing about "real" war is that it's humans versus humans, and so all defense (and material) is designed to that default. In a quasi-fantasy setting where there's humans, but there's also flier critters, then part of defense is design hostile to the opponent's form.

    For example, how a flier lands matters. Fantasy critters fly like animals, not helicopters; many of them will require a bit of a landing strip to touch down. Dotting open spaces suitable to landing with obstacles--think about concertina wire, or those giant rebar asterisks to obstruct tanks, or just a bunch of trees--are deterrent, if not outright threats, to a flier coming in under fire. Since heat and smoke rise, and also create updraft, intentionally starting large fires during an incursion makes life harder for fliers still in the air. String thin wires ten feet up in the air, between lampposts, trees, and buildings, and they're zero inconvenience for ground-bound humans, but anything flying down or up has to seen them avoid them in time or get severely injured. A doorway, or alley, or tunnel that's narrow but endurable for humans might be a tight squeeze, or impassable, to something with a big wingspan...and wingspan is always huge relative to core body it's bearing aloft. Build defenses with narrow passages and low doors; create underground networks for human troops to move through that inconvenience fliers; create a whole defense system of bunkers connected to pillboxes connected to defense towers through which humans can move easily.

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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Ugh, late the party on this one. As someone already mentioned going underground is the best way to go, really the only way to go. And you can do it with rather low tech as well. For example there is Derinkuyu in Turkey. It could hold 20,000 people.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    I'm not sure flyers would change the nature of medieval siege warfare much personally, most of what they do has already been a factor in warfare for a long time unless they're implausibly powerful creatures like dragons.

    If you have something like a 'realistic' pegasus (bear with me,) then it's basically going to be light cavalry, able to carry a lightly geared rider and maybe some stuff for them to drop or some small arms.

    If you land on top of a fortress you have to fight in through some pretty abysmal conditions since early castles tended to have stairs rigged up so fighting down into the keep from the roof was a nightmare as a way to deal with siege towers and ladders and so forth. Later castles might just not have anywhere to land on.

    If you attack a city you have all the problems normal cavalry have but without some of the advantages. You can't just gallop through the streets of a city that knew you were coming. Medieval cities would string chains and ropes across some of the streets if they were expecting enemy cavalry to get into the city, trying to fly above streets would run afoul of washing lines, signposts, jettied houses, flagpoles and presumably some dedicated anti-flyer architecture.

    I'm not sure flyers could even fly all that high with any practicality, without modern communications gear coordinating them would be a nightmare and with no life support they can only fly so high without risking hypoxia, hypothermia, decompression sickness and so on.


    I think the most important thing to remember is that sieges were insanely hard to win in an actual assault, especially as time progressed. There's instances of castles being held by a dozen people, not even all soldiers, against hundreds until being betrayed from within, and hundreds holding off thousands and so forth. Unless you have a truly overwhelming amount of flyers or big tech advantage they can likely be held off by the military assets the defender hasn't put on the outer walls. One or two men can defend a spiral staircase in a tower against several times their number, and when attacking a city the civilian population would usually help kill any invaders they could as well. To attack an up to date fortress is borderline suicide.

    Under most circumstances I expect an attack with flyers on a castle/walled city to resemble a forlorn hope situation than anything else.
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    Default Re: Would building cities as giant buildings be a practical defense against flyers?

    Quote Originally Posted by akma View Post
    I'm posting it here instead of Worldbuilding because I want to focus on the real world practicality of this, not the creative side of this.

    Let's imagine a theoretical kingdom with medieval technology and a lot of resources, but not unlimited ones. They have no excess to magic, they only have regular humans. They have enemies that have flying armies and they have time to prepare defenses against them. Could they build a building in the size of a city in which everyone would dwell?
    If you want to fight your hypothetical fliers, you'd need some terrain where their advantage is nil. Honestly, two things come to mind.
    A) Fighting fliers in human-sized underground dwellings
    B) Fighting fliers in a dense forest.
    C) Something else

    The A leads to natural problems. You probably can't have a large sustainable underground city, but you could several connected underground settlements, and they would still depend on the surface for provisions.

    The problem with a forest city (B) is that you can easily burn it, and render the tree city to ash in minutes. Also very hard to fortify it. You'd probably still want to live inside the tree trunks to reduce their advantage further.

    I imagine (C) would have lots of spikes everywhere. Maybe just a castle with every surface being a nasty spike? Every armor would also have spikes. Maybe something more surreal? This is the hardest and probably impossible to do without some Magic.
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